Peters Township boys oust Gateway from WPIAL playoffs

Saturday, February 25, 2023 | 7:57 PM

Doing the little things can decide who wins or loses. That was certainly the case in the WPIAL Class 5A boys basketball semifinal matchup between Peters Township and Gateway.

In a game that was tied at half, the No. 1-seed Indians outscored the No. 4 Gators by eight points in the third quarter to give them just enough of a lead heading into the final frame as Peters Township defeated Gateway, 62-55, on Saturday afternoon at Mt. Lebanon High School.

Peters Township advances to Thursday’s championship against No. 2 Penn Hills at 9 p.m. at Petersen Events Center.

Gateway will play in the third-place consolation game Tuesday against No. 3 North Hills before taking part in the PIAA tournament.

The Indians were led by junior Jack Dunbar’s 29 points. Dunbar scored 16 of his 29 points in the first half.

Dunbar did most of his damage from long-range as he hit five 3-pointers, with three coming in the opening frame.

“I think him making shots early took some pressure off of other guys. He eased us into the game a little bit and calmed our nerves a little bit. That was big. He threw some punches when the cards were down for sure,” Peters Township coach Joe Urmann said.

Senior Jake Ziegler finding his rhythm in the third quarter propelled the Indians to taking an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter. Ziegler scored 10 of his 14 points in the third quarter as he hit two big 3-pointers from the corner in front of his Peters Township bench.

Senior Brendan McCullough finished with 11 points.

The Gators were led by junior Talil Thompson, who finished with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Senior M.J. Stevenson finished with 11 in the loss.

The Indians went on a 7-0 run to end the third quarter to give them a 49-41 lead after three quarters. However, the Gators responded with their own 6-0 run to cut the Indians lead down to two with 5 minutes, 40 seconds remaining. Urmann called a timeout to regroup his team.

“I thought we had to calm our guys down a little bit. Our guys might’ve taken the foot off the gas a little bit too early. I wanted to remind them on some things defensively that they had not done in previous possessions. They focused in, and we got some stops down the stretch,” Urmann said.

After a pair of free throws by Dunbar, Gateway cut the Indians lead to 51-50 after a Thompson 3.

The Thompson trey started a 3-point contest between Thompson and Dunbar as each would respond to the other’s 3-pointer with the score at 54-53 and more than three minutes remaining.

The Indians got critical rebounds down the stretch to build a five-point lead with 2:30 remaining capped off by Dunbar grabbing the defensive rebound and doing it all himself by driving to the other end for a score.

After cutting the Indians lead to 58-55 with a Stevenson bucket, the Gators had a chance to tie it when Thompson missed a 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining. The Indians pulled down the rebound, and the Gators were forced to foul Dunbar.

However, Dunbar missed the front end of a 1-and-1. The Gators rebounded the miss, but Peters Township prevented the Gators from getting the quick look they wanted and settled for a contested shot under that basket that hit the back rim with 26 second remaining.

“We battled. We didn’t do the little things better than them. That’s what we talk about all the time about doing the little things.” Gateway coach Alvis Rogers said.

The Indians scored four more points capped off with a Dunbar dunk in the final seconds.

Peters Township returns to the WPIAL championship for the first time since the program last won it in 2009 against Mt. Lebanon. Urmann was an assistant coach on the Mt. Lebanon staff.

“It’s been awhile,” Urmann said. “I was on the losing side of that Peters Township championship as a Lebo assistant at the time. We are happy to get there, but obviously the goal is to win it.”

The Gators, who were looking to return to the WPIAL championship since they last won in 2012, will need to turn the page quickly as they prepare for Tuesday night.

“This is going to test us, and we are going to see what kind of character we have now. It’s going to divide us, or it’s going to bring us closer,” Rogers said.

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